In August 2018, Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court voted to legalize gay marriage, making Costa Rica the first country in Central America to recognize the right of same sex couples to marry. The ruling is supposed to take effect in ten days on May 26th, a deadline which brought members of the National Liberation Party (PLN) into a brief fist fight on Tuesday.
Enrique Sanchez, Costa Rica’s first openly gay congressman (Citizen’s Action Party) commented, “It’s been a shameful spectacle. It gives me peace of mind that this issue will probably die in assembly, and there will be no going back.”
Legalizing gay marriage was a major promise by President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, who took office in 2018. Now two years later, the court’s decision is being challenged again. On Tuesday, lawmakers attempted to introduce a motion to delay the ruling for another 18 months, citing the coronavirus as having taken time and energy away from the legislators, who have not had time to properly review the new ruling. This angered equal rights activists who pointed out that the Constitutional Court had already ruled on this legislation in 2018.
“There are many other issues that we as a country need to resolve, especially in the face of the emergency we are confronting due to the global pandemic”, said Luis Salazar, presidential commissioner for LGBT population affairs. “It’s a waste of time in the sense that this issue is … already settled.”
The dispute came to a head when David Gourzong of the PLN physically attacked fellow PLN member Gustavo Viales, in the middle of a heated discussion over delaying the May 26th ruling. Gourzong later apologized on Twitter, tweeting, “It’s clear to me that neither verbal nor physical violence is the way to resolve differences.”
Lawmakers would need 38 votes in Costa Rica’s 57-member assembly to bring the law back up for discussion, something most politicians think unlikely before May 26th.
Rights activists point out that reopening the issue would certainly stir up the fierce debates that roiled the elections in 2018. They agree that improving Costa Rica’s economy, bringing back the tourist industry, resolving corruption, fighting narco-trafficking, and continuing to fight COVID-19 are better causes for Costa Rica’s lawmakers and citizens to address.
Same sex marriages are already allowed in Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, and in some parts of Mexico.
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